Archive for category #eternallife

John 3:14-21 “No Snakes at Church”

A sign of lifesaving work

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned, but those who do not believe are condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” [John 3.14-21: NRSA]

This passage contains the heart of every sermon in the most familiar verses of this chapter, vs. 16 and 17. We will get to them in a moment, but first, we look back to the Moses and the People of God in the Wilderness, living in peril, fear, and separated from all they had known before.

In the wilderness, they had a problem with snakes. People were getting bitten by poisonous snakes and dying left and right. It was a mini plague, a real crisis for the community. They turned to Moses, who turn to God.

Notice the response of Moses always includes turning to God.

God instructs him to place a snake upon the staff that had parted the sea and guided the people, and to live it up for all to see. The Wilderness Journey was all about teaching the People of God to look to God, trust God, and follow God.

Moses’s remedy is no different. The sign is the promise that God will take care, God will guide, God, will save. Follow God and find Life. That was the Old Testament message, and Luke is telling the same as our New Testament message.

FOLLOW GOD and FIND LIFE.

The connections between a snake in the garden with Eve and Adam, being lifted up, as an offering, a sacrifice, as an example of God’s power to save..blessed the Israelites in the Wilderness and points us to Christ who dies for us all, is also lifted up, as a sacrifice for our sin and the payment for our life with his own.

  • FOLLOW CHRIST and FIND LIFE
  • FOLLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FIND GOD
  • FOLLOW THE PAYMENT and SEE WHERE IT LEADS

Much of the evil and corruption we see in the world is tied to money and power that can be seen in the transactions of payment. The great three traded resources in our time are weapons, drugs, and people. Money is laundered to transact these commodities for power around the globe. This is when human trafficking, the war on drugs, and the quest to limit nuclear weapons and still new technologies as always at work behind the scenes. Money is given for oil, that is traded for weapons that are traded for drugs, that paid for with the lives of human trafficking and/or slave labor. It is a horrible system of evil at the deepest and highest levels.

We say, thankfully none of us do anything like that!

But we want our prices low at the discount stores; the largest cost is labor. The lower the price the less has been paid for labor. It is politically convenient for some to argue that we should raise the minimum wage to bring justice. But that is not the model to support. Somewhere the work has to be done and someone is paying the full cost.

If my shirt is made of cotton, it was grown by someone, harvested at the hands of others, traded and transported, prepared into clothing, transported, made into garments, packaged and transported, sold, and transported yet again. Who deserves what percent of the product? the grower, harvester, transporter, trader, weaver, designed, sewer, packer, shipper, or the retail salespersons at the end of the line? If the minimum wage doubles, would not the cost of each step also increase, and though the wage increase so would the value of the product and process. Bottom line, when we speak about cost and payment, someone makes the risk, the sacrifice, and therefore determines the true value.

The Value of Eternal Life has been paid through the sacrifice of God’s own Son, God’s grace, God’s work! Why? Because God loves us. Because God does not want to give up on us. God is not ready to be cast us away.

John 3:16-17 Gets all the attention

But let’s look at verses 18-21:

  • “And this is the judgment,” with the proclaiming of Jesus as our means of salvation, he is also our advocate in Judgement. This is a reminder that just because we are with Jesus doesn’t mean we skip the final judgment.
  • the light has come into the world,
  • people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
  • For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.
  • But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

By What will be judged? Here is the scorecard: Light or Darkness, Love or Hate, Self or God, Evil or Good’s Righteousness.

The thing about sin is that it is an all-or-nothing dilemma. We are with God or we are not, We are in the light or dark, no 50 shades of grey with Righteousness. So we step up to the plate, we already have three strikes and are headed back to the dugout. Why try if we are out before we start. We don’t like this so we..

The best players in history bat in the 400s which means the very best strikeout or get out a majority of the time. Not too different from playing for the world’s team.

World’s Baseball teams: The Dark Nights, The Evil Weasels, the Hidden Hitters, the Shagging Shamers,

My prayer is that evil may be seen for what it is. If we were to see the real evils in the world we wouldn’t be less likely to look the others way and allow evil to have a pass.

When we believe that our own salvation is connected to exposing all that is hidden, in darkness, with the light of Christ, our passion is not kill-people-with-kindness (that’s always a miss used phrase)

We share the light of Christ because God wants the light of truth and life to reveal what is broken that it might be exposed, healed, redeemed, and transformed, buy the same grace that saves us.

We have more sense than a moth. A moth is drawn the light and will continue to attack the bulb until it burns it up. Why, the month is not very bright.

Why do we continue to do what is hidden, selfish, evil, sinful —

The world looks at the church says, We don’t like Christians because they are too judgemental. And we run around trying to find away to soften, couch, and even hide the truth until are able to explain the Good News. Yet…

Honestly we usually just keep letting things slide, and people think what they want so they will at least leave us alone, and we can just co-exist in some lowest common denominator or detent we vaguely call peace. And we become those who keep silent.

The implied instruction in the famous John 3:16-17 about Jesus is the summary of Grace, and 18-21 is the reason why we who are in Christ are called to expose evil, name the truth, stand for God’s righteousness.

But the moment we do, count on the power of evil not resist. Remember from the sermon on the Mount, Blessed are those who are persecuted FOR MY sake, for the purpose of revealing and teaching God’s righteousness and goodness.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Salvation is for those who hold fast to righteousness and speak the truth to evil, greed, pride, shame, deception, and all manifestation of sin and brokenness.

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John 4:1-30 Crossing Limits to find True Living

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”  Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. [NRSA: John 4:1-30]

This passage is about crossing lines and boundaries to include people in the kingdom of God.

One example we look back 100 years, with the 19th amendment to see the constitution amended to include women voice their power through voting. This was an important crossing a boundary for women and men. We take for granted that all citizens have the right to vote. It was unjust to limit any citizen’s power of choice and accountability.

  • It takes persistence and taking disappointment and turning it into momentum,” she said. “These women were masters at protesting, but they were never just protesters. They used all the tools of democracy and learned to use the system to change the system.” Elaine Weiss, author of “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.”

Today, a hundred years, hence, why would anyone cheapen the work done to secure that vote buy opening our elections to fraud.  I genuinely believe those who fought for the right to vote would not want anyone to water-down the fruit of their suffrage. The change occurred because women and men followed up the protest with social and political action for the common good of the nation.

While sitting in a waiting room I happen to watch one scene from the most recent version of the movie, Wonder Woman, (Warner Bros. 2017). Which conveys the classic battles of good verses evil and the reversal of power between women and men.

Jesus is living in a world where men did not talk with women in public, in different cultural context, in the middle of the day, and yet this is very scene we see Jesus speaking with the women at the well.

It is assumed by most bible scholars that the only women who went gather water in the middle of the day were those who had been shunned by the other women, that she had some past, history, reputation that by her choice to avoid the other women or by being excluded by other women, she was at the well at noon.

Jesus orders her, give me some water. Next Saturday is annual conference, and we will have the historic opportunity for that body of the church to meet virtually for the first time. Dylan is our church delegate and representative. We are both registered and ready to login this Saturday for an all-day online meeting. Wow!?

Had it not been for Covid-19 we would again be meeting in Athens, Georgia for this meeting. Going to Athens is probably why Dylan agreed to be our delegate, (joke.) It is typically extremely hot in Athens in the middle of the summer and they bishop always reminds the conference to stay well hydrated. A few years ago it was unbearably hot, and many people had passed out from the heat, and the bishop said these words, “There are plenty of places in Athens to get a drink and I want you all to drink a lot.” I do not think he had in mind that Athens has the most per capita bars in the state, and that in that context he was telling the delegates to go drink. He caught himself and corrected. “Water, people, go drink a lot of water.”

I would gather that it was hot in the noon day sun when Jesus met this woman at the well. He was thirsty. She had the bucket. This is where an enormous conversation of grace, invitation, and salvation are opened for this woman, the disciples, for us, and the world.

  • Jesus is geographically at the limits
  • Socially at the limit
  • Politically at the limit
  • Gender limits

It is at this four-way junction that two people meet as strangers and leave as brother and sister.

The conversation Jesus has with this woman is ultimately about truth.

  • The Truth of being at a crossroad.
  • The Truth about social and political boundaries
  • The Truth her life
  • The Truth about God and her relationship with God.

This is where we meet this passage:

  • Think of the political differences in our own congregation and even in our families.
  • Think of the social differences in our community and even our church family.
  • Think of the community differences that divide us.
  • Think of the sins that diminish our joy, the baggage we carry ourselves that keep us from getting too involved.

Jesus’ remedy for all this division is to reveal the truth about what on the inside.

Our guilt, shame, brokenness, hurt, grief, history, reputation, emptiness, failures, and all matters of sin.

With all that mess on the table, there is the invitation to drink the water of eternity.

  • Do you want to live forever in guilt?
  • Do you want to live be carrying the burdens of shame, fear, hurt and grief?
  • Do you want to filter every joy through the past judgement of others?
  • Do you want to only be satisfied in this ONE moment of thirstiness? Or be satisfied for eternity?

In this passage there are no signs of miracle, there is no ritual of drinking. there is no further conversation between the woman and Jesus.

  1. She leaves her water jar at the well and runs to tell those who had rejected, persecuted, harmed, and been harmed by her and to her,
  2. She has an overflowing word of truth guiding her actions
  3. She has an earthy vessel filled with joy worth sharing
  4. She will be physically thirsty again, but she will never be the same spiritually.

This passage begs of us to ask “Is my spiritual jar filled with the love of Christ or am I focused on the emptiness of by clay jar, my body, my world, my brokenness?”

This passage calls us to say, if we are filled with the good news of Jesus Christ in our live how are we responding to world around us?

This passage calls us to see past our failures and differences and find the common ‘living-water’ in Christ.

Therefore, it is the same story and invitation as always: Christ has come to give himself for us that nothing separate us from the love of God. Not politics, not social media, not customs, not cultures, not history or present day. God offers us this living water as well. Drink it up!

Every time you drink a glass of water say this prayer: “I know that Messiah is coming, he will proclaim all things to us” and hear Jesus say, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you now.”

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